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  1. #1
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    "Safe and Solid" Scott Linehan

    When I hear people talk about Scott Linehan, it seems like a lot of people say he plays it safe or that we didn't make flashy moves in the off-season, just sound, solid moves to improve the team. People will contrast his style with that of "Mad" Mike who made questionable calls, tried unsuccessfully to convert prospects to different positions, was cavalier about ball control, and burned timeouts like kindling. However, I'd say Linehan is a bit of a risk-taker in his own right.

    The Switcheroo
    While he has yet to try to change a quarterback into a receiver or a receiver into a safety, Linehan doesn't mind moving people around. In fact, that seems to be his solution to our biggest needs. So far in the Linehan regime:

    We signed weakside linebacker Will Witherspoon to play middle linebacker.
    The result: made lots of tackles but defense also gave up plenty of runs for big gains up the middle

    We drafted defensive end Adam Carriker to play nose tackle reasoning that his run-stopping ability would translate well to the inside
    The result: TBD

    We moved three-technique tackle Jimmy Kennedy to nose tackle.
    The result: contributed to the second worst run defense in the league. Kennedy is gone the next off-season.

    We have also moved Incognito and Wroten around after injuries robbed us of depth at center and defensive end respectively
    The result: Incognito played very well. Wroten didn't see the field much if at all as a backup DE.

    The Depth Gambit
    Linehan doesn't mind jettisoning players that have fallen out of favor whether we can replace them or not. A few examples:

    We let Pickett leave despite the fact that we had no other nose tackle on the roster at the time.
    The result: see the Kennedy experiment

    We traded Anthony Hargrove when he was one of only four defensive ends on the roster. This was after we released Tyoka Jackson in the off-season and announced we would not seek a defensive end during free agency because of what we had in Hargrove.
    The result: Adeyanju got injured, and we had to start Brandon Green. The two of them managed 1.5 sacks on the year.

    We traded Jimmy Kennedy when the only players on the roster who had played 4-3 nose tackle were fifth and seventh round rookies.
    The result: TBD


    We traded Brandon Manumaleuna with only the rookies we had just drafted one day before to replace him.
    The result: Klopfenstein looked promising and had a season easily as good as any Manu ever had.

    Luxury Spending
    The Linehan regime has thus far been characterized by attempts to improve all three components of the team: the offense, defense, and special teams.
    However, one might question whether the additions on offense are wholly necessary. For example:

    We drafted tight ends in the second and third rounds of the 2006 draft before finally looking for a defensive end on the second day.

    The next off-season, we essentially had only two defensive ends, so we traded for one. Still lacking depth at various positions on the defense, our high profile free agent signings were at receiver and tight end.

    We also signed a back-up running back in free agency and devoted another second round pick to running back. We did sign a solid veteran back-up linebacker, but depth at defensive tackle was only addressed through the draft and depth at defensive end was not addressed at all. This may be simply the result of drafting purely based on "best player available", but if need does factor into our evaluations, I have to question our priorities.

    Result: The offense may have more weapons than any other team in the league, but defensive line depth remains perilously thin.

    The Bottom Line
    The play-calling under Linehan may be more conservative than Rams fans are accustomed to, but he is still a gambler. The Rams' draft strategy has been anything but safe. We have taken risks on character (Byrd and Wroten), we have taken players based more on potential than current skill at the position (Adeyanju and Wade), and we have taken players at positions of relatively low priority when there appears to be talent at need positions available.

    Perhaps the most concerning risk is the team's evaluation of its own players. The team decided to ride on the skills of players like Kennedy and Hargrove in 2006 rather than invest in veteran depth. Less than a year later, these guys aren't just demoted, they're out of here. Either Linehan's trust was badly misplaced or he never was happy with what we had, he just said we were because he knew he wasn't going to get anything better.

    Now risk-taking isn't always a bad thing. I'd dare say that you have to take some risks to be successful, but make no mistake, we're playing a dangerous game by relying on unproven players and late round draft picks. It's high risk...hopefully high reward.


  2. #2
    z.nrd Guest

    Re: "Safe and Solid" Scott Linehan

    Quote Originally Posted by Goldenfleece View Post
    When I hear people talk about Scott Linehan, it seems like a lot of people say he plays it safe or that we didn't make flashy moves in the off-season, just sound, solid moves to improve the team. People will contrast his style with that of "Mad" Mike who made questionable calls, tried unsuccessfully to convert prospects to different positions, was cavalier about ball control, and burned timeouts like kindling. However, I'd say Linehan is a bit of a risk-taker in his own right.

    The Switcheroo
    While he has yet to try to change a quarterback into a receiver or a receiver into a safety, Linehan doesn't mind moving people around. In fact, that seems to be his solution to our biggest needs. So far in the Linehan regime:

    We signed weakside linebacker Will Witherspoon to play middle linebacker.
    The result: made lots of tackles but defense also gave up plenty of runs for big gains up the middle

    We drafted defensive end Adam Carriker to play nose tackle reasoning that his run-stopping ability would translate well to the inside
    The result: TBD

    We moved three-technique tackle Jimmy Kennedy to nose tackle.
    The result: contributed to the second worst run defense in the league. Kennedy is gone the next off-season.

    We have also moved Incognito and Wroten around after injuries robbed us of depth at center and defensive end respectively
    The result: Incognito played very well. Wroten didn't see the field much if at all as a backup DE.

    The Depth Gambit
    Linehan doesn't mind jettisoning players that have fallen out of favor whether we can replace them or not. A few examples:

    We let Pickett leave despite the fact that we had no other nose tackle on the roster at the time.
    The result: see the Kennedy experiment

    We traded Anthony Hargrove when he was one of only four defensive ends on the roster. This was after we released Tyoka Jackson in the off-season and announced we would not seek a defensive end during free agency because of what we had in Hargrove.
    The result: Adeyanju got injured, and we had to start Brandon Green. The two of them managed 1.5 sacks on the year.

    We traded Jimmy Kennedy when the only players on the roster who had played 4-3 nose tackle were fifth and seventh round rookies.
    The result: TBD


    We traded Brandon Manumaleuna with only the rookies we had just drafted one day before to replace him.
    The result: Klopfenstein looked promising and had a season easily as good as any Manu ever had.

    Luxury Spending
    The Linehan regime has thus far been characterized by attempts to improve all three components of the team: the offense, defense, and special teams.
    However, one might question whether the additions on offense are wholly necessary. For example:

    We drafted tight ends in the second and third rounds of the 2006 draft before finally looking for a defensive end on the second day.

    The next off-season, we essentially had only two defensive ends, so we traded for one. Still lacking depth at various positions on the defense, our high profile free agent signings were at receiver and tight end.

    We also signed a back-up running back in free agency and devoted another second round pick to running back. We did sign a solid veteran back-up linebacker, but depth at defensive tackle was only addressed through the draft and depth at defensive end was not addressed at all. This may be simply the result of drafting purely based on "best player available", but if need does factor into our evaluations, I have to question our priorities.

    Result: The offense may have more weapons than any other team in the league, but defensive line depth remains perilously thin.

    The Bottom Line
    The play-calling under Linehan may be more conservative than Rams fans are accustomed to, but he is still a gambler. The Rams' draft strategy has been anything but safe. We have taken risks on character (Byrd and Wroten), we have taken players based more on potential than current skill at the position (Adeyanju and Wade), and we have taken players at positions of relatively low priority when there appears to be talent at need positions available.

    Perhaps the most concerning risk is the team's evaluation of its own players. The team decided to ride on the skills of players like Kennedy and Hargrove in 2006 rather than invest in veteran depth. Less than a year later, these guys aren't just demoted, they're out of here. Either Linehan's trust was badly misplaced or he never was happy with what we had, he just said we were because he knew he wasn't going to get anything better.

    Now risk-taking isn't always a bad thing. I'd dare say that you have to take some risks to be successful, but make no mistake, we're playing a dangerous game by relying on unproven players and late round draft picks. It's high risk...hopefully high reward.
    Seems to me a lot of that could just be spun differently.

    You make a lot of good points, but also some I don't agree with, but I am just going to respond selectively to a couple of things.

    First, just cause a guy is low-risk as a playcaller doesn't mean he's low-risk in other areas. So, I think you're right...he takes chances as a team-builder, but a lot of them I applaud. I think dumping Hargrove was the right thing to do, especially for a first year coach who is setting the tone for a lot of young players.

    For example, it has always looked to me like Linehan doesn't have a win-now-over-building-a-team philosophy. So if you imagine the team being in a 3 year plan, then, jettisoning Hargrove or starting Setterstrom makes sense---both in terms of developing talent and setting the tone for how to act as a Ram. Same goes with not signing DTs you don't like in free agency (Rams targetted Hollis Thomas and Terdell Sands and both got taken off the market), and developing youngsters instead. That's true of DE too----they didn't sign or draft anyone, but they have developmental possibilities in guys like Alton Pettway and Trevor Johnson.

    A lot of what you see here, also, is pure coach's decisions, by which I mean, it's both a virtue and a flaw of coaches that they believe they can coach anyone (until shown otherwise through experience, as with Kennedy). (In fact, dumping Kennedy goes right along with that---who needs Kennedy if you think you can coach the young guys? IE. I think that's what Linehan and Haslett are thinking). They are effectively going with pure youth on the DL (except for Hall), and investing a lot in Pettway or Johnson, and Wroten, Carriker, Ryan, and Jackson.

    Is that right or wrong? Time will tell, but it does tell me that the person setting the tone, vision, and strategies is Linehan, and no one else. Shaw as usual is playing proxy absentee owner, and Zygmunt seems to just be going along with Linehan's lead and giving him what he wants. If Linehan has good instincts OR can learn fast from mistakes and change his policies, then, it could all go well. But it's his team and no one else's vision is determining its direction. With one exception. Linehan really seems to listen to Haslett and give him a lot of leeway.

    On offense. I applaud all the moves, myself. Bennett is not just a redzone threat, if you follow what guys who have seen him a lot say about him, he is also a deep threat and/or big play threat. He also fits what Linehan wants from at least one WR---someone who will win battles for sideline jump balls. McMichael is aboard not only because he is a short yardage pass catching TE, but because he is a veteran pass blocker (that's according to Linehan). Leonard is aboard because they lacked a true #2 RB, and Linehan buys into the two RBs approach (like Tomlinson/Turner). (Minor, it seems to me, was signed as a STs guy.) On offense he seems to be fixing problems (pass blocking, sacks) and deepening a strength.

    The strategy seems to be: develop the offense with veterans to maintain a strength and keep the defense off the field, improve special teams with veterans (Hall, Johnson, Minor), and develop the defense through youth (IMO they are more or less conceding that the defense can only be rebuilt on a 3 year plan).

    So the big question is defense. After adding vets last year (Brown, Chavous, Witherspoon, Glover, plus Hall and Draft this year), they are adding youth this year. In fact they're probably going to turn over the entire defensive roster, with only Bartell, Atogwe, Tinoisamoa, and Little remaining from before. That sounds to me like Linehan listens to Haslett and Haslett doesn't like most of the players he inherited.

    What about keeping guys in 2006 (Kennedy) and then dumping them in 2007? Well, for one thing, when they arrived, they had no one in place in the front office to tell them where their defensive personnel stood. So as coaches they would not know the difference between Kennedy and Pickett. How could they know? And there was no one in the office who COULD know something like that (Shaw and Zygmunt don't do personnel assessment, and as far as I know, Armey never did team self-scouting the way a lot of personnel guys do). So Haslett finds out the hard way. Now, one year later, Butler, Fisher, Kennedy, and Hargrove are gone. And then like I said they don't like the FAs that were available, so it's youth movement on the DL.

    Okay enough...those are just random thoughts.
    Last edited by z.nrd; -06-14-2007 at 07:08 AM.

  3. #3
    HUbison's Avatar
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    Re: "Safe and Solid" Scott Linehan

    They are effectively going with pure youth on the DL (except for Hall),
    ....and Little and Glover.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: "Safe and Solid" Scott Linehan

    Time will tell, but it does tell me that the person setting the tone, vision, and strategies is Linehan, and no one else.
    Guess I'm not following. How does the youth movement tell you that only Linehan is setting the tone?
    Shaw as usual is playing proxy absentee owner, and Zygmunt seems to just be going along with Linehan's lead and giving him what he wants.
    I must be having a really slow day........how do we know Shaw and Zygmunt have nothing to do with what has happened to this team since Linehan came on board? I no fan of Shawgmunt, but I don't know that they are completely void of activity either.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  5. #5
    z.nrd Guest

    Re: "Safe and Solid" Scott Linehan

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison View Post
    Guess I'm not following. How does the youth movement tell you that only Linehan is setting the tone? I must be having a really slow day........how do we know Shaw and Zygmunt have nothing to do with what has happened to this team since Linehan came on board? I no fan of Shawgmunt, but I don't know that they are completely void of activity either.
    I don't "know." As in, there's no external evidence for that claim. Both things are big hunches, or educated guesses, and just my view.

    First off, it's kind of a "coach's thing" to believe you can coach up lots of rookies and get by without veterans. A true GM would have done it differently, it seems to me. A GM's view would be "you never know, keep Kennedy around till we know the kids can play." A coach's view is "aw to heck with it, let's just mold some rookies."

    The reasoning about JZ is that he can't possibly contribute to a youth movement---he can't scout players, he can't self-scout the team, he doesn't know the first thing about genuine personnel assessment, so if Linehan is taking a risky route (and I think it's fair to say he is), then, JZ could only possibly be in the role of facilitating it by helping Linehan get who he wants. BTW JZ himself has said this. He has said that he can't do personnel---that his job is just making sure all the different parts of the organization are clicking and doing their jobs, but not much beyond that. So, those are the kinds of actions JZ can only go along with---he can't lead in that area.

    How do I "know" JZ and JS have nothing to do with this particular job of roster-building? Like I said, my best educated guess is that by definition they can't contribute to roster building. They can only go "fine, okay, go with it" and then facilitate it.

  6. #6
    HUbison's Avatar
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    Re: "Safe and Solid" Scott Linehan

    Like I said, my best educated guess is that by definition they can't contribute to roster building. They can only go "fine, okay, go with it" and then facilitate it.
    By definition? Really? Okay, well, like I said I'm not a fan of either Shaw or Zygmunt, but I doubt that "fine, okay, go with it" is the summation of their activity with where the team is now. For example, I'm sure the extensions of Pisa and Little had more to do with Shaw and/or Zygmunt than Linehan.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  7. #7
    z.nrd Guest

    Re: "Safe and Solid" Scott Linehan

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison View Post
    By definition? Really? Okay, well, like I said I'm not a fan of either Shaw or Zygmunt, but I doubt that "fine, okay, go with it" is the summation of their activity with where the team is now. For example, I'm sure the extensions of Pisa and Little had more to do with Shaw and/or Zygmunt than Linehan.
    But, see, I didn't say that. Meaning, I didn't say "fine okay go with it" was the full extent of their activity or input. I said that they are facilitators (I say "they" assuming Shaw is even actively doing much). That's work. JZ puts in the calls, feels out trades, works the contracts, and so on...that's work.

    And, no, I disagree on the extensions. I have seen hints, but haven't seen enough on this for the evidence to be solid yet, but, my best bet is that early extensions for players not on the Big A List is a Linehan thing. Not a JZ thing. Cause, in fact, JZ never did it before. (Just as he was never willing to spend that much on a middle linebacker before, but then, along comes the Witherspoon contract after Linehan is hired.) My feeling is, Linehan knows how to persuade JZ on things like that. Before, JZ might extend one of the Big A List no-brainer stars---Warner, Holt, etc....those guys. But not next-tier down guys....Fletcher, Wistrom, Conwell, Tinoisamoa. And of course it is very smart to extend some guys like that. It's just that previously, JZ wouldn't...he would let them go out on the market. Linehan comes aboard, and, all of a sudden, that tendency changes. I put those extensions on Linehan. But in this sense. JZ had to do real work to get those deals done...but my best bet is that Linehan talked him into it.

  8. #8
    AvengerRam's Avatar
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    Re: "Safe and Solid" Scott Linehan

    My sources tell me that Linehan has photos of Zygmunt molesting parakeets at Petsmart and that, whenever he needs to get Jay in line with what he wants him to do, he walks by him in the hallway and, in a quiet voice, makes a squawking noise, which Jay immediately recognizes as a not-so-veiled threat to publish the photos on MySpace.

  9. #9
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    Re: "Safe and Solid" Scott Linehan

    Quote Originally Posted by z.nrd View Post
    For example, it has always looked to me like Linehan doesn't have a win-now-over-building-a-team philosophy. So if you imagine the team being in a 3 year plan, then, jettisoning Hargrove or starting Setterstrom makes sense---both in terms of developing talent and setting the tone for how to act as a Ram. Same goes with not signing DTs you don't like in free agency (Rams targetted Hollis Thomas and Terdell Sands and both got taken off the market), and developing youngsters instead. That's true of DE too----they didn't sign or draft anyone, but they have developmental possibilities in guys like Alton Pettway and Trevor Johnson.
    Quote Originally Posted by z.nrd View Post
    In fact they're probably going to turn over the entire defensive roster, with only Bartell, Atogwe, Tinoisamoa, and Little remaining from before. That sounds to me like Linehan listens to Haslett and Haslett doesn't like most of the players he inherited.
    I think you're right about building for the long term, and they do seem to be turning over almost the entire defensive unit. The thing that worries me is that Linehan and Haslett seem to prefer to do without rather than make do with what they've got. For example, maybe Hargrove was not a satisfactory starter and had questionable commitment. Are we better off without him? I'd argue that he still had value to the team as depth. I'm hard pressed to think of any other team in the league that has traded off a starter at a position of need mid-season recently. The same argument could be made for Kennedy. The coaches obviously weren't happy with what they had, but sometimes you have to play the hand you're dealt.

    Quote Originally Posted by z.nrd View Post
    On offense. I applaud all the moves, myself. Bennett is not just a redzone threat, if you follow what guys who have seen him a lot say about him, he is also a deep threat and/or big play threat. He also fits what Linehan wants from at least one WR---someone who will win battles for sideline jump balls. McMichael is aboard not only because he is a short yardage pass catching TE, but because he is a veteran pass blocker (that's according to Linehan). Leonard is aboard because they lacked a true #2 RB, and Linehan buys into the two RBs approach (like Tomlinson/Turner). (Minor, it seems to me, was signed as a STs guy.) On offense he seems to be fixing problems (pass blocking, sacks) and deepening a strength.
    Well, I'll enjoy watching these guys play in any event. I like Bennett, and (aside from the history of domestic abuse charges) I like what McMichael brings to the field. I really like what I've seen and heard on Leonard, too. I really don't have a problem with the individual players we chose. My issue here is just balance: we've now got three receivers who could start, two or maybe even three tight ends who could start, and arguably two runningbacks who could start. Our second team offense might be better than some teams' starting offenses. On the other side of the ball, we have some good backups like recent signings Chris Draft and Todd Johnson, but we also have a total of 2 career sacks for all backup defensive linemen combined. To me this is particularly disconcerting on account of the fact that the lack of depth at defensive end hit us hard last year.

    For the most part, I like the direction the team is going in. I like that we're continuing to bring in smart players with good work ethics, and I really hope that by taking a chance on all these young guys, we do find some players who play better than anyone expected.

  10. #10
    z.nrd Guest

    Re: "Safe and Solid" Scott Linehan

    But there were no starters on defense they wanted. Thomas and Sands went off the market, remember.

    And on offense, they will use a lot of 3 WR sets. So---Bennett. At TE they wanted a vet specifically because of his blocking. And they tried to run 2 RBs last year, it's just that one was beat up (Davis).

    If they have a 3 year plan, and if there's no one on defense they wanted in free agency, their moves make perfect sense. Shore up offense and KEEP it a strength; add what they can to STs and defense. Move on to year 3. IN year 3, they will have started some youngsters and developed various positions. And then there's one more round of free agency and one more draft.

    I don;'t think the defense would have been fixed in two years. It's a hunch but I don't think they think it would either.

    Given that, adding Hall, Draft, Johnson, and 3 rookie DTs is just step 2 in a 3 year process.

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    Re: "Safe and Solid" Scott Linehan

    But there were no starters on defense they wanted. Thomas and Sands went off the market, remember.

    And on offense, they will use a lot of 3 WR sets. So---Bennett. At TE they wanted a vet specifically because of his blocking. And they tried to run 2 RBs last year, it's just that one was beat up (Davis).

    If they have a 3 year plan, and if there's no one on defense they wanted in free agency, their moves make perfect sense. Shore up offense and KEEP it a strength; add what they can to STs and defense. Move on to year 3. IN year 3, they will have started some youngsters and developed various positions. And then there's one more round of free agency and one more draft.

    I don;'t think the defense would have been fixed in two years. It's a hunch but I don't think they think it would either.

    Given that, adding Hall, Draft, Johnson, and 3 rookie DTs is just step 2 in a 3 year process.
    While the whole three year plan thing looks good and it seems like we could be working that way on paper I don't think this is really what they have in mind. Exspecially not Linehan, I doubt a rookie coach wants to put his neck out there for three years UNLESS the front office is equal partners in this plan. I like the direction we're heading with youth and character movements, I think with another strong FA/draft we'll be in an awesome place (not that we aren't already).

    One other thing, if I never have to hear about Zygmunt in another thread it would be great.


    I don't "know." As in, there's no external evidence for that claim.
    That made me smile.

  12. #12
    general counsel's Avatar
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    Re: "Safe and Solid" Scott Linehan

    znrd, i like your post here and i think your arguments are well thought out and presented. With one exception.

    Ray Charles could see the difference between pickett and kennedy and he is a) blind and b) dead. Who cares what the front office thinks? Coaches review film and evaluate talent. Pickett led the nfc in tackles at his position the year before we let him go, even though he didnt get top dollar in free agency. Kennedy had NO track record of any kind. None whatsoever. We let a proven consistent player walk away at a position that we had nothing proven at for reasonable money. you have to lay at least some of that on haslett and linehan, that cant all be ziggy since the money wasnt that overwhelming. Haslett had been a head coach in the nfc for years, he was aware of picketts capabilities and history, he didnt need anyone in the front office to tell him about pickett.

    Ramming speed to all

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